By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer
If you were one of the thousands of shoppers who made their way to one of the local craft shows this holiday season, you did much more than just find the perfect gift for that hard-to-please person on your list — you helped support the local economy, from the crafters, themselves, to the schools that host the events.
“Spend the money in your own community, shopping with your family and friends,” said Sasha Murphy of St. Clair Shores, a vendor at Lakeview High School’s craft show last month, who was selling greeting cards adorned with photographs she takes herself. She said they make good hostess gifts and stocking stuffers. “I don’t think you can typically get these sort of things (in big box stores). It goes right back into your own immediate community.”
And those who perused the craft isles at Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township not only found some unique gifts, but they also helped raise needed funds for the school’s band program.
“We’re giving back to the kids that way,” said Susan Durlock, of Clinton Township, who runs the annual craft show at Chippewa Valley. She estimated that the show annually brings in about $13,000 each year. “I work for six months getting this ready. It’s all volunteer hours, but it’s a great fundraiser for the band program.
“That’s what this is all about, is the kids.”
If your shopping is complete this year, keep in mind that craft shows are usually annual events at each venue, and there are plenty of gift ideas to be found at a local show. Some venues even offer clearance shows in January or February.
Sean VanSickle, of Alphabetic Artistry by Kelli in Goodrich, Mich., said shoppers come to craft shows to find things that are unique and one-of-a-kind.
He said the competition forces them to continually be creative and improve their product, as well. The company sells framed photographs of letters, which can be made into any word, crafting a piece of art to display in the home.
Although the work can be found in places like SkyMall magazine, “the unique character of all our letters … the variety of letters, the variety of selection,” make the company stand apart, he said.
With admission typically only a few dollars, shoppers can make the most of their day by hitting several shows at once. Refreshments are typically available for purchase, so customers can shop around to find their favorite items. Many crafters also will be able to tell shoppers what other shows they’ll be at, or give them a website for online purchases, so there is still time to ponder a gift.
“Craft shows (include) a wide selection of handmade items that … the artists put their heart and soul into, so you’ve got unique items that you won’t find in the stores,” said Durlock.
She said it’s also easier to find personalized items at the shows. At Chippewa Valley’s show, which usually draws about 2,500 shoppers each year, they offered holiday décor, jewelry, Native American items and Christian olivewood crafts, as well as some clothing, food and home interior pieces.
Many shows, like Chippewa Valley’s, limit how many crafters can offer the same product, guaranteeing that shoppers will encounter a variety of choices for themselves or for gifts. Durlock said, even in a specific category, like jewelry, they try to bring in a variety of mediums to choose from.
With the continued push to support the local economy, craft shows are about as local as you can get, and Durlock said they are also a way for artisans to get their wares out into the community.
“People put time and effort, and quality” into their products, Durlock said. “Right now, the push is to keep everything local and buy American, and craft shows definitely buy American.”